Cruising with Teens – Preface

This entry is part 1 of 20 in the series Cruising with Teens

I should have made the investment two years ago. How could I have known that purchasing a tux would provide a substantial return in so little time? As with plastics, IBM and Cisco stock, and the condos at Mahogany Run on St. Thomas, I blew it again. Opportunity lost.

The Surgeon General should step in and require that cruise lines put a warning on their advertising:

Warning: Cruising is addictive. While the attendant relaxation may be beneficial to your health, the habit may have significant impact on your everyday life and finances.

Even potato chip companies have the sense of social responsibility to warn potential customers of the pitfalls; “Bet you can’t eat one.”

And so we begin another tale…


Last summer, a season that never established itself with any confidence here in New Hampshire, I asked my 18 year-old son Wells and his best friend Dan if they would like to go on a cruise someday. They were sitting around waiting out the latest rainstorm, planning a cross-country trip for the summer of 2004, right after their high-school graduation.

I have been hearing talk of this trip for years. I’ve always thought, though, that the chances of it actually happening were slim. Really slim. I’ve never seen either of the boys achieve true independence for more than 3 hours – never mind the 3 months they thought their adventure would last.

“How much money do you have saved up?” I asked.

“Three-hundred dollars, but I’m going to save a lot more,” replied Dan.

Wells was silent. In this case, saying nothing was the same thing as saying “nothing”. But I already knew the answer.

“How much you figure you’re gonna need?”

After a pause Dan responded, “A lot.” The words rode on top of a little nervous laugh.

I let that sink in for a while. In an attempt to lighten up the conversation a little, I tossed the cruise question at them. “Hey, would you guys have any interest in going on a cruise someday?”

Dan responded right away. “Sure. I’d go.”

“You’d have to wear a tux.”

“I don’t mind. I’ll do it.”

Wells again said nothing, although his meaning was not as clear this time. I dropped the subject.

At this point in time, I had been conspiring with myself for many months to find a way to get back on board a ship. Since disembarking the Mercury in early November 2002, thoughts of the pleasures of cruising had never been more than a few seconds apart – twenty four hours a day. Such is the power of the addiction.

I fought the thoughts by reminding myself that we are simply not “vacation people” in our family. Once every five years is more than reasonable – that has always been the rule. So many people talk about “needing a vacation”.

That’s nonsense,” the little voice in my head would say. “They are weak. You are strong.”

Since first stepping aboard a ship in July of 2002, there’s been another little voice in my head. The two voices argue all the time.

You need a vacation,” pleads the new voice.

No way! You can’t afford it. You’ll have two in college next year, you idiot!

Cruise,” the new voice whispers. “Cruise.”

The old rational voice falters briefly. “Ahhh…but, but…wait a minute here. Don’t be ridiculous! The high-tech sector is reeling, and you could be an unemployed 50 year-old computer geek any minute now! Come on – get real.”

You can’t take it with you…

Of course you can’t – you don’t have it to begin with.

Warm breezes…palm trees…romance. Food.

When they get to arguing like that, I get distracted and do things that make me look like a klutz. Knock glasses over, trip over the pets, cut people off on the highway – that sort of thing. Embarrassing.

My next opportunity to plant the cruise seed came around Thanksgiving last year. Kris was working on the final class and dissertation for her Master’s degree. The deadline was a month away, and she was becoming despondent.

“I’ll never finish this. I need a vacation.”

My mind immediately filled with the volley between reason and passion.

She’s weak!”

Take her somewhere nice.”

Tell her to wait ‘til 2007.”

Warm breezes…palm trees…romance. Food.”

“How about someplace warm for February vacation? Someplace where I don’t have to cook,” I offered.

“Mmmmm,” she answered.

“A cruise?”

“Yeah. That would be nice. Or we could just go someplace warm and sit on the beach.”

I decided to leave it at that for the time being, tripping over the dog as I casually walked away.

The holiday season brought some blessed relief from the constant internal fight. There simply wasn’t time to think about relaxation in any shape or form.

In January, a big envelope arrived in the mail one day. It contained Kris’s diploma.

“So, where are we going?” she asked while sticking the document to the refrigerator door.

Now, here’s where it starts to get tricky. In the ensuing discussion, we decided that we had provided insufficient entertainment for Wells during his younger years. After all, he had only gone to Disney World on one of our two trips there, while his older brother Ryan got to go both times. The other two family vacations during his years-to-date on earth had been to places with a fairly low fun quotient. Guilt weighed heavily on us.

Further we reasoned that no matter where we went, Wells would have a much better time if Dan came along. We agreed that if Dan would pay his own airfare, he was more than welcome to join us. Visions of a cruise evaporated when I imagined the 4 of us in a little cabin for a week.

If you’re going to do it, that’s the only sensible option,” said the rational voice.

Nooo! What misery… They deserve better than that. Don’t do it!” The voice of reason came from an unexpected direction. I dropped the cruise idea, utterly and completely. It would be miserable.

We settled on a week in St. Thomas. I haven’t been back there since we moved away in 1980, although Kris took Ryan for a visit in 1988 so he could see his original home. The idea of seeing the island and some old friends who still live there was very appealing. I really got into the idea.

Dan had by now managed to save $600 toward the three-month cross-country extravaganza. I asked him if he was willing to part with it for a week on St. Thomas instead. He said, “I dunno, I’ll have to think about it.”

I thought it would be a no-brainer…

A few days later, Wells announced that Dan couldn’t go. No explanation was given, and I immediately felt badly. Obviously Dan had his heart set on the summer trip, and was making a sacrifice to keep the hope alive. I still had a hard time imagining it – at the present rate of savings, he might have $750 by July. He’d spend that on food in the first week. I’ve fed him many times, and I’m confident in my calculation.

Just think of all the money you’re going to save on food!” said the rational one.

Poor Wells. He’s not going to have any fun.”

The family commiserated about the loss of Dan as a traveling companion. Wells started to get cold feet about going anywhere, and Kris felt that we’d better book the trip quickly and just tell him he had to go.

So, I sat down at my computer and started making reservations for three people on St. Thomas for one week. I love my time on the computer — just me and millions of web pages, each offering a zillion choices and a lot of fine print…

Now, you might have read this far with the expectation that an actual cruise would be part of the story. And you might wonder, “Just how is that going to come about?”

Perfectly reasonable question…

Next: Cruising With Teenagers

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